The Baltimore Sun

Blame boredom for teen trouble

The Sun's article about Joy Sushinsky fighting to clean up her Hampden neighborhood was interesting, and her efforts are commendable ("Doing battle for Hampden home," June 12). But the article left out one key element.

Ms. Sushinsky has a laundry list of things she would like to do to in her neighborhood, but she offers no solutions to help the youths who are causing the problems.

As a former delinquent teenager myself, I attribute such behaviors to boredom and a lack of activities for teenagers.

It's one thing to want to clean up the park and make it more attractive for parents to bring their young kids there to play. But what about the older kids who still need something to do?

If you kick them out of the park, they will go somewhere else and do the same types of things. They are not just going to disappear.

I do not have the answers, but if Ms. Sushinsky and other residents want to see a truly positive change, they must offer something to help these teenagers.

Teenagers need a place to hang out where they can listen to music, be themselves and express their creativity without feeling like their parents are breathing down their backs.

I would bet that most of these kids are not bad people, just misguided, and that given better opportunities, most of them would also want to help make the neighborhood a nicer place to live.

Teenagers in large groups almost always get a bad rap. But perhaps instead of blaming them and driving them out, we could all try to remember what it's like to be that age and come up with activities they can enjoy without jeopardizing the neighborhood's safety.

Caitlin Chamberlain, Baltimore

A children's zone on the west side

I was delighted to see the profile of the Harlem Children's Zone and see The Sun use it as a model for efforts to help children in Baltimore ("In Harlem, a zone apart," June 15).

And indeed, over the last year, the University of Maryland, Baltimore has begun working with other groups to develop plans for a Baltimore Children's Zone that would serve several city neighborhoods on the west side.

The proposed Children's Zone would fill the gaps in the health and social services currently available and ensure that continuous and comprehensive supports are in place for underprivileged, low-income and at-risk children and families in West Baltimore.

Following the successful model of the Harlem Children's Zone program and informed by research about the needs of the Baltimore community, we intend to play a major role in transforming troubled communities.

It has become very clear that getting to children early and staying with them throughout their young lives works. Unfortunately, it has also become clear that the need for such a comprehensive approach to saving children in our poorest communities is more dire than ever.

But with the right support, our children can do remarkable things.

Bronwyn Mayden, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Children's Zone Initiative at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Speculators add to price of oil

The Sun recently printed two letters that blamed environmentalists for the rising cost of oil, citing their opposition to increased oil drilling ("Limits on drilling squeeze oil supply," June 11).

However, increased drilling is not the answer. While it could lower prices modestly for a limited time, it would also cause irreparable and permanent harm to our ecology.

The real reasons for increased oil prices are the falling value of the dollar and rampant speculation by commodity traders dealing in oil futures.

After recent hearings before Congress, there was a widespread recognition that speculation in the futures market is behind much of the price increase.

So we can blame the Bush administration's regulators for some of the price rise, chiefly the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for refusing to regulate the futures market.

To make matters worse, Republican senators, including John McCain, recently blocked a measure that would have strengthened government's ability to investigate and regulate market speculators.

Jack Kinstlinger, Baltimore

Medical IT saves lives and money

Kudos to Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and the Department of Health and Human Services for launching a pilot program to help increase the use of information technology in health care.

As the article "Push for digital health records" (June 11) highlights, increasing the use of information technology could save lives and dollars by reducing medical errors and increasing the efficiency of our health care system.

In fact, some studies have suggested that this could save more than 250 lives and about $452 million every day.

But the HHS program alone will not be enough to spur widespread adoption of technology that will make possible such improvements. Congress must also do its part.

Right now, legislation that would create uniform standards for health care IT is stalled in the House and the Senate.

Without these standards, the proliferation of this technology in health care is not just unlikely but almost impossible.

I call on Congress to break the gridlock and pass health IT standards before the summer recess, because America shouldn't have to wait for a 21st-century health care system.

John Castellani, Washington

The writer is president of the Business Roundtable.

Digital records imperil privacy

Digital technology is all the rage, but there are three reasons patients and doctors may want to avoid online electronic medical records ("Push for digital health records," June 11).

First, the push for digital records is primarily coming from payers for health services - government, health plans and large employers - not doctors or patients.

By using access to online records, payers hope to exert more control on medical decisions.

Physicians who comply with government-issued and corporate-issued treatment directives, as recorded by digital treatment tracking systems, will earn more. Physicians who do not comply will be financially penalized.

Second, a national online system of electronic medical records could facilitate a population-wide research program on millions of involuntary subjects - patients whose private data could be tapped into and analyzed without consent.

Third, the high cost of online electronic medical records - including the cost of security breach restitution, regulatory requirements and system upgrades - will consume millions of precious health care dollars at a time when Medicare is facing insolvency and the rate of uninsured is rising.

With patient safety, medical ethics and health care access at stake, a patient's right to refuse online digital medical records and to limit outside access to private medical data is critical.

There's more at stake here than patient privacy: No patient or doctor should be forced to cede authority over private medical decisions to self-interested outsiders.

Twila Brase, St. Paul, Minn.

The writer is president of the Citizens' Council on Health Care.

Russert's voice to be truly missed

Tim Russert was a rare breed, someone whose genuine love for politics and news showed each and every week on Meet the Press but who also was fair and not biased at all ("Tim Russert dies at 58," June 14).

Although I never met Mr. Russert, I feel like I knew him through watching him on TV, and he was always a trusted source of news and politics.

His voice will be sorely missed during this election and beyond; however, his impact on politics and journalism will be everlasting.

Steven M. Clayton, Ocean, N.J.

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